Stressed to the max, so just sod off
There are lots of reasons to get mad up in the air and not just on United Airlines where paying for a seat doesn’t appear to be a guarantee of take-off. There are ghastly developments such as the new “basic” economy fare from American Airlines, with less legroom, no access to overhead luggage lockers and the debatable thrill of being the last to board. On its 737 “Max” planes, being introduced on North America routes this year, extra seating will be crammed in, less distance between rows will reduce legroom, so passengers will have to sit like semi-folded deckchairs. Max discomfort, perhaps. Hello, DVT.
Most of us are cranky and stressed after braving all those airport security checks — necessary, of course, but sometimes so duplicated. Why do I breeze through one set of security portals with no beep-beep alert and, at the departure gate, get sent through a second and a siren goes off, all flashing lights and reaching for firearms (not mine). The problem is my shoes, apparently. They are taken away, examined every whichway, the innersoles yanked out and then returned without comment. I board in a scratchy mood, but am among the first passengers so can stash my haul of ceramics from Sicily snugly in the overhead locker.
My hand luggage is small and inoffensive compared with suitcases the size of steamer trunks now being loaded. “Wheels to the rear!” announces the flight attendant as she assists passengers to stow their suitcases with as many wheels as a trucker’s rig. Bang, wallop, push, shove, I watch in horror as my little stash is reassigned. Now it is under a Samsonite bigger than my checked-in case. I wait for the crunch of my platters and vases from Taormina and want to cry. Thanks to the miraculous properties of bubble wrap, the ceramics survive.
But not my toes, which are run over more than once as we disembark by those small caravans masquerading as suitcases. I get hit in the head by an enormous backpack when a passenger in front of me turns sideways. Someone (not me) shouts at him to watch where he’s going. He replies they should sod off. Except he doesn’t say sod.
Earlier this year, an airline texts me at 1.15am to say my 9am international flight from Sydney has been cancelled and I will be reassigned to a later departure. The toll-free number in the text I am instructed to call is engaged for several hours. I have a connection in Auckland and need to be sure I’ll make it. I get through at 4.45am and suppress the urge to scream.
At least I am dressed and abuzz with espressos. The operator (concierge?) says I am reassigned to a much later flight that won’t allow me to catch the connection. I ask if she has my onward booking details with a partner airline. Oh, yes. Hey, would I like to be allocated an earlier flight from Sydney so I can catch the next one? Oh that would be just so handy. All done, you’re on the 7am now, be at the airport by 5am. It is now 4.57am, but possibly not at the Bangalore conciergerie. As I race out the door, I mutter a word that definitely is not sod.